L.A.: From Freeway to Greenway

Southern California freeways
Southern California freeways (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Los Angeles freeways are the ruins of the future.”

Thus begins Dutton Architects provocative examination

of the future and eventual fate of one of Southern California’s most defining man-made features: the freeway system.

The rising cost of petroleum, Angelenos’ growing acceptance of mass transit, and a gradual rise of a new California lifestyle that places sustainability ahead of mobility could mean that SoCal’s reliance on the automobile has plateaued. Dutton’s manifesto begins with a call to abandon the car as a dysfunctional element of our lifestyle, introduces the idea of a a “Slow Move” future to go alongside our presumed “slow food” future, and then lays out the implications for urban planning and lifestyles.

The car, Dutton suggests, has dominated our city for too long. It is time to approach things another way. By shifting to an integrated, hierarchical network of sidewalks, bike paths, light rail, and subway networks beneath the greenways that take the place of freeways, the study suggests we can claim a lifestyle in keeping with our ideals and our climate.

As with many such studies, there is an thick band of utopianism woven throughout this picture. Southern California has been zoned, built, lived, and governed with the car at the center. Changing that means changing much more than repurposing freeways, and thus it presumes either a burst of instant national enlightenment or a cataclysm (economic or environmental) that will convince Californians that they no longer have a choice.

Yet such criticism is somehow unfair, as it presumes more than what the study was intended to offer. Dutton’s team is proffering a vision of the post-automotive city that can be in many ways better than what we have, not worse. It is not a roadmap on how to get to that future.

I’m not ready to buy yet, but I wish more of California’s planners and architects would pursue such innovative thinking. It might just get us someplace.

Advertisements

The Murphy Auto Museum

Murphy Car Museum-16
Murphy Auto Museum (Photo credit: IvyMike)

Nowhere in the world in the automobile more an integral part of a place’s culture and lifestyle than in California. Even as we find ourselves facing a world where the supply of unleaded is becoming ever more dear, Californians are leading the effort to make car culture more sustainable, guilt-free, and politically correct. Yet the car remains a celebrated icon of the California lifestyle, so, unsurprisingly, the Golden State is blessed with a number of automotive collections, two of them in Ventura County. Of those two, the arguable leader is the Murphy Auto Museum.

The Murphy is a labor of love of a handful of local car enthusiasts who tired of hiding their lovingly restored classics in garages and only wheeling them out for weekend events. The result is a gift for anyone with even the least appreciation for the automobile as historical artifact and art form.

The docents are knowledgeable and helpful, but are happy to simply let you wander the museum and appreciate the cars. The restorations have been loving and the attention to detail ensures that what you see are not “hot rods,” but vehicles that look like they are almost fresh off of the production line. Little surprise that Hollywood often comes into the museum looking for cars to use in period movies.

The museum is strictly a weekend affair, open Saturdays and Sundays only, so make it a part of a weekend itinerary when you are in the area.

MURPHY CLASSIC CAR FOUNDATION
2230 Statham Blvd.
Oxnard, California 93033

Open Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm